Final Presentation for FYP Pitch
The reading had quite a few very relatable examples that I myself have experienced during my brief decade of working.
Eventually, the superintendent admitted that this was the largest pour he had ever undertaken and that he had not asked anyone for help in planning the concrete pour. The contractor spent the next three months fixing the mistake, a mistake that could have been avoided had a work plan been developed based on sound practical experience.
I thought this was a very relevant example of how a seemingly small shortcut can lead to a much larger inconvenience and loss. I think this same lesson can be applied from everyday tasks to month/year-long endeavours. Also, the other key lesson is to know your limitations and when/where to seek help when necessary. Yet, I think there is also a conundrum when it comes to knowing where something can be learnt by iterative experimentation. This is perhaps more applicable in our academic setting, where learning by doing is imperative. The ability to decide when to experiment and when to seek help is a thin but necessary line to maneuver, both in school and at the workplace.
A contingency of 10 percent is a very common percentage, but other percentages may make more sense taking into account project specifics.
This is something I feel has been slowly built into my psyche from my years of good and bad experience working at several places/environments. I think it is just good practice to always have some leeway in whatever you do, even something as mundane as buying ingredients for cooking. Mistakes, spoilages, different proportions etc will most surely force you to unnecessarily make another trip back to the store. Likewise, for my personal projects in making, I have learnt I always need more wood, screws, wheels(you get the idea) than I planned, no matter how immaculate of a CAD I prepared.
A task is an essential activity or increment of work. Every task requires three elements to fully define it.
- An objective
- A duration
- A level of effort
This seemingly silly and simplistic paragraph is effective for distilling the essence of what we do every day. Everything should have these three elements, and a significant compromise in any(mostly point 2 & 3) is undesirable. I have witnessed many colleagues and sometimes myself how an unreasonable amount of time is spent on a task without reflection on how it can be accomplished more effectively. However, this also comes with a certain level of experience; how can one know he/she is spending too much time on something if he/she has never done it many times before to attain a frame of reference? My best guess is to ask around how others have done similar tasks or have a best-guess estimate(err on underestimating with a margin for error). I think this estimation is crucial as it allows one to be fully aware of the process and not be buried in an endless cycle of perfection/completion/struggling, unless it is a one-task project you are trying to achieve. Realistically, different areas of a project require different levels of finesse, so it would also make sense that amount of time and effort commensurate accordingly.
Outline of a Typical Project Work Plan Document
- Project objectives
- General description of the project…
- Major project objectives
- Major milestones…
- Project construction budget…
- Deliverables by milestones…
This last section of chapter 5 is the backbone of any mid-long term project. I think it is always helpful to have an outline similar to this when tackling any project of sufficient complexity. The milestones(with dates) allow one to be wary of how much ahead/behind one is, and whether any adjustments to the design, and consequently workload, has to be made. Project objectives are also likely continually adjusted to corroborate with changing designs. Budget ensures that one doesn’t get into trouble, especially with finishing the project; half done project = no project = all money wasted. Budgeting can also give a sense of whether the design is too wasteful or can be modified for more economical material options. Deliverables by milestones is a useful self-check mechanism for keeping your team of one(or many) in check, in a very honest and direct manner; it is either done or not done, nothing ambiguous or in between.
The two exhibitions showcased a wide variety of works, in many different forms, sculptural, digital and audio-based etc. In general I felt that the works themselves are answering directly or indirectly to the themes surrounding these trying times. Yet, I feel also that the broader themes of pressing social issues and the ever-increasing pace of city life with its associating impacts are also central to most of what the works speak of.
The pandemic has necessitated reflection, both at the individual and the societal levels. The lockdown has given society an excuse to pause and re-evaluate life, and the government has also identified the few areas of over-reliance on external forces as the small island state navigates through these trying times. Although most of the works on display centered around similar issues like the demise of over-digitisation, hostile architecture, consumerism, capitalism, I do feel that more suggestions of the direction forward would have been welcomed instead. These do not need to be explicitly defined, but metaphorically or methodologically.
Which brings me to the piece that I was quite enamored with. It is Ashley Yeo’s Drop of Light, where she has painstakingly hand-cut a piece of paper into the piece on display. It works perfectly both visually and metaphorically; the act of taking the time, patience and care to create something. As a piece, for me, it is very tangible, there is no ambiguity in how time-consuming the process is, and the end result speaks for itself; there is nothing to hide, the piece is fully ‘naked’ to the spectator, and there is no need to explain much. This is in stark contrast to the many technologies and conveniences of the modern world; fast-food, slimming pills, one-click wonder softwares, ponzi schemes and an ever-growing list.
I find it intriguing that I am always coming back to honoring craftsmanship for ‘solving’ almost any modern day problem(mentally). Fast-paced lifestyle? Work on a craft of your choosing, spend time to study it well. Too impatient for your own good? Pick an arduous process and work through it. Feeling tired from all the ‘noise’? Disconnect, shut yourself out and work on your craft for hours on end.
To put Ashley’s piece in context, there isn’t anything terribly technical or groundbreaking inherent in the piece. But the extraordinariness of it all lies in the patience and care that went into its creation. And that is what we are here to celebrate; the passing of time, in the time-honored fashion way of doing something well and right, no shortcuts.
A little research on Ashley’s background; she is no stranger to handcrafted work. She has produced many pieces similar to the one above, and won many prizes for them as well. She also works with other materials like ceramics, aluminium and wood. In an article interview she also mentioned that her most time consuming piece took her over half a year to complete; a piece measuring about 45cm.
Looking at her piece made me wonder about everything around us, all the different objects we encounter daily, and how much does each of them take to materialise; the HDB flat unit that I live in for example :p , or the fish fillet burger that I adore.
Kim’s writing is highly specific to design targeted at digital products/services, but there are certain aspects which I think I beg to differ.
But before I go into that, I would like to highlight one point that I strongly agree on: Design is a craft because it is neither science nor art, but somewhere in between. Case in point, design can be found everywhere, just that it is called different things in different fields. In Science/engineering it could be called methodology, in language semantics etc. Thus design is both science and art and probably everything else all at once.
That said, my preferred approach to design tend to lean towards exploratory and mastery. Through exploration, new ideas and approaches can be derived, systematically or haphazardly. Mastery, can truly ground a practitioner and rediscover new truths about existing approaches. That is my belief, and is the principle I hope to cultivate towards the kind of design I embark on.
Although the article is targeted at designing for the digital age, I think the proposed systematic approach can be both an aid and a crutch at the same time. Citing an overly simplified and inconsequential example, Facebook was originally created with the goal for young boys to check out girls on campus. Now a multi-billion dollar corporation, it has far exceeded its original humble intentions. My point is that digital or otherwise, some amount of serendipity in design could be desirable.
Having a framework as highlighted in the article is necessary, but hardly the whole equation. In practice, such frameworks are hard to realise due to many factors that are not easily controllable. For instance, towards the end of the chapter, “the engineers are not very skilled, or decision-making is dysfunctional in some way…”, isn’t that pretty much 90% of the companies out there that are trying to compete for a slice of the pie. The framework is presented as an idealised version of what can and should be practiced, but in reality most studios really operate in a much more adaptive manner, just to ensure deadlines are met and clients are satisfied.
I think there is some merit to what is being proposed about personas and the benefits of using this as a tool to design a product. But my counter argument would be this is for perhaps a rather narrow set of problems; what personas can one use for designing a fraud detection system for an online auction site, or design control software for an autonomous robot that can used in offworld applications(to do that comprehensively would perhaps entail knowing all the different things it would be used for, hypothetically).
I do feel that the lean (or equally great Toyota’s kaizen) approach, is probably the more suitable approach for a wider set of problems we are trying to solve, and realistically too. To me, it sounds more logically to prototype fast, test, iterate/pivot. The Kaizen approach of continuous improvement is commendable as well; today’s world of fast-food style consumerism is not healthy for creating services/products with long lasting value.
As artists we are constantly looking for meaning to be attributed to our work, be it for commercial, social or personal causes. In the commercial space, I think the relationship between practice and product is clear and direct; work is created for a pre-agreed amount. Personal works are similar; it is done for one’s personal benefit and enjoyment, any additional benefits that come with it are complementary and mostly welcomed. Yet, in the social causes category, I think there is much more room for ambiguity and interpretation, manipulation and perhaps even (unfortunately) deception.
In an ideal society, problems are identified and solved progressively by people in power, with money and organisation. Therefore, in the un-ideal real world, many problems have to be solved in other, innovative and convoluted ways. And artists, being creative as we are, have discovered the potential of tapping on this attractive source of funding. It is the perfect marriage between ‘helping’ well-endowed individuals/organisations spend their money meaningfully and achieving a higher purpose in individual self-actualisation. In essence, it is similar to many other mechanisms in seemingly disparate fields; exploratory scientific research, nature conservation or humanitarian work etc.
All is well, but there is sometime uneasy about artists being engaged in social issues. Are we, as artists, privileged in our own way, have a sufficient level of understanding of such multifaceted complex issues to be able to address and propose appropriate solutions? Inherently, there is also a conflict of interest whenever there is monetary exchange involved; how much of the resources are actually spent on the social cause being addressed.
I would also argue that tackling social issues through artistic points of view could prove to be detrimental in some cases. Many social issues are exactly what they are; social in nature. As such, solutions can be simple and direct; sometimes people just need help, right there and then, till they get back on their feet, some never do. Introducing another element into the process could perhaps over-complicate/obfuscate the real issue, unnecessary diversion of funds notwithstanding. I do recognise the need for people to be compensated for their efforts in organising such efforts, but the real question is perhaps what constitutes a fair amount, and what qualifications/experiences are prerequisites, if any.
Having to lower one’s rhetoric in order to please donors, mopping up the symptoms of social problems instead of going after the disease itself, and, ultimately, reducing the vital work of political organizing to a symbolic gesture
I think this excerpt sums up quite nicely my thoughts on the issue. My gripe with artists trying too hard to ‘organise’ social causes is that the effort could easily be consumed eventually by something else altogether. With that said, I think this approach is a complex and possibly viable option going forward, but is easily subjected to abuse. Unfortunately I do not have a sound proposal for what could work, but I do believe that in today’s increasingly interconnected societies, misinformation, misdirection and misrepresentation are some of our civilisation’s most pressing problems. Competition, scarcity and consumerism have placed us on a relentless pursuit of intangible heights. Therefore, I feel social causes should remain as ‘pure’ as it possibly can in logistical and philosophical terms. Art can be employed in a complementary way, but not as a way to ‘sell’ the idea to attract funding.
As an interdisciplinary artist, I have many different passions; woodworking, computer graphics, electronics, sculpture, gardening and handicrafts.
I aim to create simple, direct and thought-provoking work by melding handcrafted physical spaces seamlessly with technology.
As an artist I look forward to constant growth, and a sense of satisfaction when my labor of love gets enjoyed and appreciated.
In-Sync seeks to reconnect people through the act of pure simple play. The pandemic has necessitated the need for physical distancing, but we are still able to have fun while staying safe. The installation provides 2 seats for strangers to share a brief moment together, through the simple act of seating and interacting with the living soundscape. The interaction is designed to be pure, simple and free of complexities, much like a children’s playground.
Curiosity vs Tradition
I made a highly experimental sandbox game while trying to learn more about how the Unity engine works. This is based on the idea of curiosity and tradition and how it influences the rise and fall of modern societies. This is made as a simple playground for generating content on the superb platform, Unity.
The Petri Dish
Information has become commonplace and democratised. But as we head further into the next few decades, how will information continue shaping our daily lives and influence how we carry out our daily tasks?
The project, affectionately named “The Petri Dish”, is a social commentary on how we have come to embrace information that is fed to us in an unquestioning manner. Will we use our intuition to understand and make wise choices, or will we lose our ability to perceive, succumb to our ‘technological overlords’ and follow their instructions blindly?